Vatican launches world survey on modern family life

Pope Francis
Image caption Pope Francis has called for an extraordinary synod to discuss the family

The Vatican has launched a worldwide survey to find out what Catholics really think about its teaching on marriage and family life.

Pope Francis is calling bishops to Rome next October to discuss possible reform that considers modern social realities.

The questionnaire asks for local views on premarital cohabitation, birth control and gay marriage.

Correspondents say it shows a greater interest in issues previously considered taboo.

"The social and spiritual crisis, so evident in today's world, is becoming a pastoral challenge in the Church's evangelising mission concerning the family," the Vatican survey says.

Among the "many new situations requiring the Church's attention and pastoral care", it lists single-parent families, inter-religious unions and divorce.

Under pressure

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says Pope Francis is under pressure from Catholics in many countries to take a fresh look at the Church's ban on contraception and its refusal to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to take Communion.

There appears to be a division of opinion on this between the Pope, who has more progressive ideas, and some of his top advisers, our correspondent adds.

The consultation is part of the preparation for the extraordinary meeting of the Synod of Bishops next year, which will focus on the subject of family.

"Concerns which were unheard of until a few years ago have arisen today as a result of different situations, from the widespread practice of cohabitation... to same-sex unions," the questionnaire says.

Pope Francis has signalled greater openness, and has said the Catholic Church is too tied up in "small-minded rules".

In an interview in September, he said the Church was too focused on preaching about abortion, gay people and contraception and needed to become more merciful.

Francis earlier created headlines by saying it was not up to him to judge about the sexual orientation of clergy as long as they were searching for God and had goodwill.

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